Winter is coming! Do you hide inside watching Game of Thrones or do you meet the beast head on?!
Is it time for a Winter Whip?
What the hell is a Winter Whip?!
The winter whip is a simple and time honoured tradition. You say “thanks for the good times” to your multi-pivoted, designed in California, preened, pruned and prettied Summer steed…. and you pop it into partial hibernation.
In it’s place you build a bike that is all business.
A bike that you can bathe in mud week in and week out. A bike that you can jet wash twice a week, leave filthy when you must, that will stand up to the elements and scream for more. It won’t be pretty, it won’t be posh but it will be hard as nails and save you a fortune of bills from the local bike shop. You’ll quite likely get overly excited about the project and spend more time, money and effort on it than you should admit. You won’t spend more time maintaining it than you probably should. Which is the point.
Here are the essentials of a Winter Whip.
Go hardtail. Bearings love mud and water and repeated pressure washing like Game of Thrones geeks love hatin’ (spoilers). That is, not much. The forums are full of decent for-sale hardtails that are a couple of years old but still more than capable of tearing up the trails. Ride your full suss for big weekend rides away, keep the hardtail for the mid-week mud plugging. Fewer moving parts, next-to-no bearings to service, probably easier to pedal through the gloop. If you really must make it a full suss bike, try to keep it single pivot for less maintenance.
The fewer the gears, the fewer the tears. The traditional Winter Whip was single speed for maximum faff-elimination… but as we’re now in the Age of Enduro we won’t dwell on that. Aim for a single ring up front with a sturdy chain device or narrow/wide and as many gears out back as you can afford or scavenge. A simple 1 x 9 or 1 x 10 set up should be fairly easy to achieve with a bit of scrounging. Fewer gears means less things to gum up with mud, grind away and ultimately leave you hiking home, in the dark, alone. The winter is for getting fitter anyway, right?
Raid your spares box. You’d be surprised what you can built from the spares box. Get stuck into the back of the shed and resurrect those old and unloved components that are gathering dust. Remember those bars that came straight off your full suss when it arrived? Still got those brakes that weren’t quite powerful enough but really just needed new pads? You must have a pair of 26″ tyres that now sit abandoned under the stairs, right? Ask your mate that’s always buying new kit and has more money than sense.
Go for the scruffy-but-rides-well vibe. The Winter Whip is a work horse. It rides weekly from October to June through the worst weather and worst riding conditions of the year. It needs to keep your riding at your best in tricky conditions but not make you feel like you owe it anything. There’s no need to spend a fortune on it and no need for it to be spotless. Rough around the edges means the inevitable hammering of winter won’t leave you feeling out of pocket. Just don’t revisit that crappy old frame you abandoned because it made you ride like a twat two years ago. If it was crap then, it’s crap now. Your winter whip should be “surprisingly good” not “reassuringly crap”.
26″ – bad for #enduro, great for #winter. 26″ frames, wheels and forks all over the internet for crazy cheap prices these days. If you’re willing to suffer the indignity of 26″ wheels you’re likely to get a bargain frame, bargain wheels and you can dig into the pile of now unloved tyres that now prop up the back wall of your shed. A fork will likely be the most expensive thing to source for your ‘Whip – old school little wheels will save you some budget here.
Balls to bearings. Compared to your linkenstein bike, your Winter Whip should be a breeze to maintain. You should only need workshop time on the wheels, headset and bottom bracket. If you have the luxury of being fussy, aim for cartridge bearings where you can. They’re naturally a bit more weather proofed although your pay off is the added faff to maintain. Get familiar with stripping them, blasting shit out of your bearings and replacing it with fresh grease. Cup and Cone hubs (lots of Shimano products) are a bit easier to maintain but more easily gunked up.
Grease for peace. Start the winter with a weather-proofed bike and you’ll swear less in the new year. Get those hubs, seat post, headset and bottom bracket greased up good. Makes sure anything that should have a rubber seal still has one. Wet lube on the chain of course. Kiss goodbye to a working Reverb though. There’s no hope for that one. Other soon-to-be-gritty dropper posts are available.
Rubber up. Good tyres will see you fly elegantly through a winter of relentless shit storms. It might be that your unloved tire collection contains some absolute gems from a recent (and now neglected) ride. If it doesn’t, spend some cash on some grippy, winter resistant rubber.
Build a sturdy, cheap, winterproof-whip and you’ll fly through the winter. You’ll spend less time fixing your bike and more time riding your bike … meaning more time for that new season of Game of Thrones.
Winter is coming… Don’t hide on the sofa eh?
You can read our suggestions for hardtail frames for less than £500 here.